Author Discusses Social, Consumer Aspects of Trade

Author and radio commentator Rachel Louise Snyder spoke Thursday at UCF about global trade practices and warned that often clothing labels “are lying to you.”

Snyder asked the audience of more than 200 to help illustrate her point by instructing everybody in attendance to “look down the shirt of the person next to you” to find the origin of the clothing. She said countries often mislead customers, for example, by saying a shirt that was labeled from Malaysia may have had 90 percent of the work done in China.

The event was organized by the UCF Global Perspectives Office, and was part of two 2011-2012 university-wide themes, “People Power, Politics and Global Change” and “Covering Global Crises from the Frontlines.”

Snyder is the author of “Fugitive Denim: A Moving Story of People and Pants in the Borderless World of Global Trade.” The book examines the tremendous human, political and financial capital that go into a typical pair of denim jeans.

Describing the unique, sweatshop-free labor system set up in Cambodia in 1995 during the Clinton Administration, she said that not all “sweatshops” are the same. Manufacturing plant workers in Cambodia receive benefits and possess rights unthinkable in other developing countries that have poor working conditions, she said.

When asked whether sweatshops are better than unemployment for workers in developing countries, Snyder stressed the importance of Cambodia’s example. There is a growing interest in the human aspect of the manufacturing process that makes Cambodian labor both desirable and economically viable, she said. “The choice is not poverty or sweatshop, the choice is poverty or no poverty.”

In addition to the Global Perspectives Office, sponsors of the presentation included Lawrence J. Chastang and the Chastang Foundation, the Orlando Area Committee on Foreign Relations, the Sibille H. Pritchard Global Peace Fellowship program, the UCF Global Peace and Security Studies Program, the UCF Nicholson School of Communication, UCF LIFE, the UCF Book Festival 2012 in association with the Morgridge International Reading Center, the UCF Political Science Department, the UCF International Services Center and the Global Connections Foundation.